Phoenix won’t be hosting the 2012 Republican National Convention.
But the head of the state party insisted Wednesday the decision had nothing to do with all the negative press associated with the state’s adoption of the nation’s toughest law aimed at illegal immigration.
“It wasn’t even part of the process,” said Randy Pullen, who also is a member of the site selection committee that chose Tampa, Fla., over both Phoenix and Salt Lake City.
Pullen acknowledged that, because of his potential conflict of interest, he wasn’t actually in the room when other committee members made the final decision. But Pullen, who is in Washington this week for various party meetings, said other Republicans he has met with all have been “overwhelmingly supportive of Arizona and the governor signing SB 1070.”
Bob Lavinia, who chaired the Phoenix committee seeking to lure the GOP to the state, brushed aside questions about the role of the new immigration law in the party decision as “pure speculation.”
“What I can say is that we put together a great package for the committee and they have decided to go with Tampa,” he said.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said RNC Chairman Michael Steele told him prior to Wednesday that the publicity surrounding the new law would not be a part of the decision. But Gordon, who lobbied for the convention, said he’s not convinced that wasn’t a factor.
And now he’s got to try to persuade the Democratic National Committee, which is making its own decision about its 2012 convention later this year, to ignore the controversy.
“Definitely for political parties, the last thing they want is a controversy when they’re trying to highlight their positives, either Republican or Democrat,” he said.
The new law, set to take effect July 29, requires police, when practicable, to check the legal status of those they reasonably suspect are in this country illegally.
Another provision effectively lets police arrest illegal immigrants on charges of violating state laws. And those who transport, harbor or conceal those they know are not here legally also could be arrested.
The law has gained national and international attention, including calls to boycott Arizona.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the new law, rejected any possibility that it was on the minds of committee members in choosing Tampa.
“Since the overwhelming majority of Americans support Arizona’s illegal immigration enforcement, including a large majority even of Democrats who appear to approve of the law’s principal provisions, no it doesn’t appear to have played a role,” the governor said in a prepared statement.
Brewer, who will head the state’s delegation to the 2012 convention — if she is still the governor — called Florida “an outstanding venue for our party’s major convention.”
With the loss of the GOP convention, the effort turns to luring Democrats to Arizona.
Don Bivens, the state Democratic Party chairman, said one thing working in favor of the state is that the party isn’t set to make its decision until November.
“By political standards, that’s an ice age away,” Bivens said. By that time, he said, a federal judge is virtually certain to rule on a request by foes of the new law for a preliminary injunction, meaning Arizonans — and Democrats — will know whether the law actually will take effect as scheduled.
But Gordon isn’t banking entirely on the courts to make the issue go away by 2012.
“By then, hopefully the federal government will have enacted comprehensive immigration reform or border security, so this should become moot,” he said. Gordon said, though, if Congress fails to act and Arizona continues to push ahead with its own plans, “we’re going to have a lot bigger problem than losing a few conventions.”
Lavinia said members of the GOP site selection committee were interested in a lot of things other than politics in the state.
Some of that concerns the amenities, ranging from the quality of the convention center and the hotels to what else conventioneers can do when they’re not otherwise occupied. Some of it, he said, relates to security, including how easy it will be for delegates to get to the convention site around the police barricades designed to keep others out.
And some of it, he said, is cost, including what hotels intend to charge.
Lavinia said Phoenix, which has never been a finalist before, was still developing the details on all of that. By contrast, he said, this was Tampa’s third bid. That experience, Lavinia said, made them better organized.
In fact, Lavinia said the Phoenix host committee will study the successful bids of Denver, Minneapolis and, now, Tampa, in preparation for a 2016 bid.